Shell-shocked Britain has four in second round

Chris Eaton strings his own tennis rackets and drives a car with a wing mirror fixed by duct tape.

One week, the 20-year-old with a world ranking of 661 was playing on the glamourless futures circuit in Uzbekistan, the next he was winning his first round match at Wimbledon.

Britain, which has not won the men’s singles at Wimbledon since Fred Perry triumphed 72 years ago, is dumbfounded.

The hosts of the world’s most famous tournament, which pours millions into nurturing homegrown talent with very meagre results, can at last launch muted celebrations—four British players have made it to the second round.

Chauvinistic tabloids went into overdrive on Wednesday hailing “Plucky Brits” and gently mocking “Chris Who?” after the biggest payday of his career.

The British have been brilliant at inventing or organising games such as soccer, golf, rugby, tennis or cricket but they have then had to suffer as the rest of the world plays them better.

The retirement of Tim Henman, four times a Wimbledon semifinalist, left a huge void which is now being filled by lanky 21-year-old Scotsman Andy Murray, seeded 12.

He duly won through his first round match on Centre Court against Frenchman Fabrice Santoro.

Eaton, who went to the same school as Henman, is the perfect fairtyale story of the journeyman who suddenly finds himself centre stage—even if it is just for 24 hours.

Asked what the atmosphere was like playing in Uzbekistan, he admitted it was “pretty dead”.

“Playing on the futures circuit, it’s very hard. There is no glamour. There’s nothing. You have just got to get out there and motivate yourself,” he said after defeating Serbian Boris Pashanski 6-3 7-6 6-4 at Wimbledon.

Anne Keothavong (24) whose parents originally come from Laos, now faces the daunting second round prospect of meeting champion Venus Williams.

Asked bluntly if she could beat the four-times champion, she said “There’s not a lot of point in me going on the court if I didn’t think I was going to win. You have to believe something.”

Elena Baltacha (24) was so overwhelmed by her first-round victory that she sank to her knees and wept.

“I am very emotional because this does mean a lot to me,” said the Ukraine-born player, whose career has been hampered by illness and injury. “It was just pure relief really.” - Reuters



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